Along with Osaka Prefecture, the city of Osaka has set eight conditions for putting the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture back online.
The move carries considerable weight because Osaka city is the largest shareholder of Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates the Oi plant.
Among other things, the conditions call for the signing of a safety agreement between Kansai Electric and prefectures within a 100-kilometer radius of the facility, the establishment of a system for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and greater autonomy for a proposed nuclear regulatory agency.
The conditions are meant to address growing unease among the public and energy users toward nuclear power plants following last year's meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Most of the conditions will be difficult to achieve in the short term. In that sense, they reflect strong opposition to central government efforts to quickly restart the plant.
We could not agree more with Osaka Prefecture and Osaka city in their calls for a wholesale review of nuclear power policy.
As the city is a major shareholder, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto made clear he intends to demand a fundamental change in the management of Kansai Electric. This would entail scrapping nuclear power generation.
At present, the governors of Osaka, Shiga and Kyoto prefectures--those in close proximity to Fukui Prefecture--are against the restart of the Oi plant. Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa has been calling on the government to guarantee the safety of the plant.
In setting eight conditions, this major urban center of heavy electric power consumption has effectively raised a red flag against the government’s headlong rush for a restart. The government has acted as if the restart was a foregone conclusion.
Hashimoto, who heads the Osaka Ishin no Kai, a regional party, positions the conditions as "a political message" to voters. He appears set to make it a major issue when his party fields candidates in the next Lower House election.
However, the government is preparing to restart the plant soon, most likely before a decision is made to dissolve the Lower House.
Since Hashimoto presented the conditions, he needs to come up with substantial steps to tide over summer demand for electricity without relying on a nuclear power plant. He should not let the message end up being empty words.
Cooperation from the inhabitants of Osaka Prefecture is indispensable to steer Kansai Electric away from nuclear power.
In preparation for the sweltering summer, Hashimoto said: "If we brace ourselves and prepare for possible planned blackouts, it would be a step forward to change the electric power supply system."
The comment was clearly urging companies and citizens to accept a certain level of inconvenience.
For starters, it is crucial to enhance and spread public awareness of saving electricity. Local governments can play a major role in this regard.
To cut reliance on nuclear power, more renewable energies must be used. To this end, the energy generation and supply system should be transformed to allow power plants to be dispersed instead of being concentrated in certain locations.
Currently, regions rely on single companies for their supply of electricity. This allows power suppliers to handle the tasks of ensuring the safety of their nuclear facilities and determining electricity rates at their own discretion.
Consumers must take the initiative to shift to a new system so that they can choose utilities from the standpoint of users.
How can local governments forge a consensus among local residents and set a precedent for new energy autonomy? We urge Hashimoto, who champions the autonomy of municipalities, to spearhead efforts to gain the understanding of local residents and companies and hammer out a package of ingenious measures to weather a possible power crunch.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 13
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